December 24th, 2009
Articles of the Shame of a Common Man ~ #1 ~ Things I’m Glad No-one Knows About
A long time ago Laura, who I mentioned in the review of Phonogram 2.1 a year ago and is in no way like the character who once reminded me of her so, set me a challenge to which I was too weak to rise. She said: ‘If you love Dexys Midnight Runners so fucking much, come into our trendy metropolitan university one morning dressed as one of them circa Come On Eileen. Dungarees, kerchief, hat, the lot. And I will give you fifty English pounds.’ Scared stupid, and unwilling to give her the satisfaction of pissing herself laughing at me while I got stabbed by less tolerant fellow students, I declined, without so much as a too-rye-aye.
Smirking lke a Cheshire cat, she christens me. ‘Your Phonogram name will be, ‘ she says (except she didn’t of course, it’s just how this could have played out if you were writing the scene like that now… The bit about the bet’s true though, and the name:)
In his review of the last issue, Paul O’Brien makes a clear and repeat-worthy point about this series of Phonogram: there’s ony so many times you can say the same things in praise – the art’s easy familiarity with a neatly decorative formal flourish; its attention to period detail, lighting, clothing, body language; the haircuts. Or the script’s endearing habit of sidestepping played-out or predictable dramatic rolls in favour of loose and oblique rhythms; the quotably real dialogue; the balance of theme and concept with plot and analysis; the knickers. The colours, that feel like lacquer and enamel, are so clear and full that its feels like he’s putting the clicks in hard; pushing the limits of the palette, breaking a physical sweat to make the pinks more electric and the greys more like gunmetal.
If it helps, it helps me, think about it like it’s a superhero comic. (It’s Image, after all. a Savage Dragon crossover would be great.) Last week our (not really) nasty villainess ran riumphant from the cab, zapping our hero with purest pop spite. In the latest episode, our hero, down but not out, puts his batplan into action. Armed with a typewriter and some lofty popish ideals, he counter spins a new spell to make himself a god with. And it has only been about a week since the last one – Phonogram’s schedule nearly killed it, now it’s like a plot point to itself, as if it was all designed to work like this, to finish on the stroke of 2010, annihilating itself in crush of wheels the turning this decade into the next. Its moment will never quite come, but will always be forever. The Invisibles did the same, as I recall – crossing over its fine boundary, going over the neat dividing line of the millenium, marked by phantom panics, eclipses and firework spectaculars like an incursion from an indescribable dimension of heat and light (for God’s sake burn it down.) The most 90s comic of the nineties over-reached itself and became a book for the ages. Now the noughtiest comic of the 00s is going to do the same, become something bigger and truer than it looked like it could be.
It’s great, finally, to see the phonomancy working, on so many levels. In desperate need of meaning, of wringing some drop of sense from the damp dishrag of an evening thwarted, Lloyd puts the magic to work and wins, comes out with something new, something strong and pure enough to allow him to go to bed satisfied, safe from the hurt of hthe self for a few more days at least, until the next time, the next evening mis-spent as the serious and sober man at the drinking dance party.
That might not even happen. Maybe he’s got it, learnt the lesson of his cut and paste reality, worked out how to breathe deap and step out as something different. This time next year he could be at number 1. The signs are there, hidden both deep and close inthe a fabric of his issue, this comic book that he’s been reaching out of and turning into a fanzine and back into a comic book. The comic strip that explains itself, finishes its own story in the fanzine section in the back, the comedic energy that needs to be taken so seriously, the keys to redemption found among the fluff in the pockets of a bunch of funny chancers from Wales. This issue is the perfect Phonogram package, with strips, back-ups, letters page and the usual editorialising all aligning to transmit a brave and hard-won optimism. It engenders a feeling of goodness, depp down below, a warmth that’s impossible to deny. Like heartburn.
This comic is a holy book, a magical thing offering redemption and the tools to unbury meaning from the poorest of terriories. It will have its devotees, dressed in donkey jackets, blue denim dungaress, preppy slacks and blazers, fifties’ gangster suits.
The only potential flaw in the scheme, as LLoyd might be lucky to find*, now becomes apparent, as does the truth of a job well-done, in the paradoxes that its illuminating existence make s impossible to ignore. As a pop artefact, Phonogram now surpasses much of the inspiral pools it draws its drink from – the music, the philosophic core, becomes smaller, irrelevant in comparison. There would be no Phonogram without Los Campesinos!, but Phonogram’s existence makes Los Campesinos! unnecessary.
*One worries though, guffaw at the inevitable, that, plan b, Lloyd’s next project, his and Marcus’ nu-retro cardycore yaoi-flavoured boyband The Heartboxes, will again be an embarrassment to him in yaers to come.
There is only one more issue of Phonogram to come. It will arrive at the start of the Teenies, bearing pube fuzz near its nethers, and will sulk your bloody face off.